In a controversial effort aimed at unifying the Church in China, the Vatican announced in September that Pope Francis had recognized seven illicitly ordained bishops after the signing of a provisional deal with the Chinese government over the nomination of bishops. Under the deal, the Chinese government can propose candidates as part of the nomination process, but the Pope must give final approval.
Many Chinese Catholics and religious freedom experts have expressed doubts about whether the deal will actually bring unity, or whether it will further encourage the Party's control over the Church in China and further divide Chinese Catholics. Leading up to the deal in June through August of this year, officials dismantled a popular Catholic pilgrimage site and destroyed two Catholic churches, and issued instructions to dioceses to report on local plans for implementation of a five-year plan to "sinicize" Catholicism in China, the commission found.
The commission also slammed China's ongoing family planning restrictions for continuing to coerce women and families despite having the recent expansion to a two-child policy.
"The amended PRC Population and Family Planning Law and provincial-level regulations continued to limit couples' freedom to build their families as they see fit, and include provisions that require couples to be married to have children and limit them to bearing two children," the report states.
"Officials reportedly continued to enforce compliance with family planning policies using methods including heavy fines, job termination, detention, and abortion," the commission noted. "Coercive controls imposed on Chinese women and their families, and additional abuses engendered by China's population and family planning system, violate standards set forth in the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 1994 Programme of Action of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development."
China was a state participant in the negotiation and adoption of both programs.
Furthermore, studies have found that the two-child policy in China did not have the intended effect of spurring population growth in the country, and population experts have recommended that the Chinese government expand to a three-child policy, or end "all birth restrictions, abolish 'social compensation fees,' and offer incentives or supporting policies, such as tax breaks and subsidies, to encourage couples to have more children."
Other areas of concern addressed in the report included the status of women, public health, political prisoners, freedom of expression and workers rights, among other things.
"The ever-expanding scope of domestic repression documented in the pages that follow directly affects an increasing number of Chinese citizens, stirring resentment, dissent, and even activism in unlikely places," Rubio and Smith noted in the report's summary.
"As American policymakers revisit the assumptions that previously informed U.S.-China relations, and seek to chart a new path forward, it is vital that our foreign policy prioritizes the promotion of universal human rights and the protection of basic human dignity, principles the Chinese Communist Party is actively trying to redefine," they said.
These efforts "have merit on their own accord, and they are also inextricably linked to vital U.S. national interests, including regional stability in the Indo-Pacific, the future of young and emerging democracies in our hemisphere, and the strength of our own civic institutions domestically."
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